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Acquiring new technology? Learn how to steer clear of the biggest pitfalls

Published on 02 August 2022

Acquiring new technology? Learn how to steer clear of the biggest pitfalls

Until I came back to The Forum in June 2021, I had spent five years in the presales arm of a leading Workforce Management provider, but I still find it hard to understand why the procurement of new technology takes place in our industry the way it does. In most cases the process is driven by one area within a business and then other areas are brought in further down the track, usually too late to make any meaningful impact. Unfortunately, this usually means that some important stakeholders in the organisation feel that “done to”. This just puts engagement and buy-in for the new technology and the benefits on the back foot from the get-go.

The Request for Proposal

Often, the purchase of new technology is driven by that organisation’s technology department, with them collating a lot of requirements from the organisation, putting this into a massive matrix, and sending this out to a list of suppliers, with a window of time to respond. This is usually referred to as an RFP process or Request for Proposal to give it its full title.

I have witnessed RFP documents with up to 500 questions that need answering. These are not just Yes/ No questions but requests for detailed descriptions around the “how”. Yet timescales for completed responses can be as little as a week. Of course this actually causes absolutely the opposite effect to what was intended. Suppliers don’t answer because of the amount of effort that is required internally to respond.

Why this process doesn’t work!

With this process, unless the supplier has had prior visibility of these RFP’s or preliminary conversations, a not respond/no bid decision will be made, 9 times out of 10 I would say. This means that you, as an organisation, could be missing out on possibly the best solution for you, simply because of the way your RFP process has been constructed by the IT department. It’s hardly a fit for purpose approach to procuring the best technology to meet your needs!

When IT suppliers do respond to this process, the IT dept will then usually collate back these answers. Unfortunately, they typically spend more time checking compatibility from an IT Infrastructure lens, than really drilling down on the functionality for the business, let alone engage the business stakeholders in this evaluation at this stage. What’s more, IT Suppliers will also be discarded from the process at this point on these criteria so by the time the end users are invited to see demos from these suppliers there might be only one or two left in the process and not necessarily the ones that were a best fit for the business outcomes.

Apply the MoSCoW rules

So, what can you do to improve this process as the end users? Firstly, you need to get into the procurement of new systems earlier with our counterparts in IT. So, when they come asking about your requirements, you need to be more considered and engage much more
closely at this stage. This means we need to make it a clear priority at that point. My advice is to follow MoSCoW prioritisation method, which is tried and tested. Just google to see this for yourself! This allows you to put items into the following categories:

  • MUST HAVE. Non-negotiable product needs that are mandatory for the team
  • SHOULD HAVE. Important initiatives that are not vital, but add significant value
  • COULD HAVE. Nice to have initiatives that have small impact if left out
  • WILL NOT HAVE. Initiatives that are not priority for this specific time frame

Learn from practical user stories.

If possible, try and ditch those RFP matrices altogether. A better approach is to focus instead on customer and colleague user stories, and then spell out the outcomes that you are looking to drive from the implementation of the new system. This can be supplemented with explanations around the limitations of your current systems with any workarounds that are in place. These should be kept in single figures wherever possible.

Do feel free to get in touch with us at The Forum if you are looking to update technology in your organisation. Chris Rainsforth and I have both worked in procuring technology, on both sides of the table. The key is to get ahead in the process, rather than wait to be brought in when it is too late. Also we can connect you with other members, if they are users of relevant systems, so that you can hear both what works and what doesn’t, from a trusted source.

Not only does this alternative approach massively simplify the RFP process, but you are much more likely to get more suppliers and more focussed demo’s when that time arrives. Furthermore, you will have cut your RFP process massively from months or years into weeks. That itself is a real win when we are all so busy, and there is always the danger of the world changing before the systems actually arrives in place.

Author: Dave Vernon

This article was first published in the 2022 Best Practice Guide - You Moment of Truth: Confident to Succeed

To download a full digital copy of the Best Practice Guide, click here

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